Captain Salem Avery Museum, Shady Side, Maryland

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By John Cowgill

Captain Salem Avery was an oysterman.  He was the captain of his oyster boat.  Originally from Long Island, he moved to the Chesapeake Bay region to test his skills of being a sailor on the bay and to find better opportunity.  He adapted to the region very well and built his home on a bank overlooking the West River and the Chesapeake Bay, and he got married and built his family here.  He went on to be an oysterman, harvesting oysters from the bay.  He owned many schooners and was a major contributor to making oyster harvesting a top industry in the state of Maryland.  A community grew around his home and eventually became the town of Shady Side.  He died in 1942, and his home was given to his son, Andrew.

Throughout the years the home was expanded and was acquired by the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society in 1984. At that point, it was turned into a museum for many generations to enjoy.  Although there are many oyster sites, this is the only known home of an oysterman in the United States that has been preserved.

Today, many of Captain Avery’s descendants still call Shady Side home.  The Captain Salem Avery home is today the Captain Avery Museum. Take a stroll through the rainscape garden and see the boat shed that houses the Edna Florence.  Walk around and take a glimpse of the West River and the Chesapeake Bay.  The grounds are open from dawn to dusk all year round.

The nineteenth century section of the home is currently being renovated to restore it to its nineteenth century look.  (It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.)  When completed, you will see what it was like to be inside a home of an oysterman.  The main hall holds an art gallery showing life on the bay in the twentieth century.  The museum also hosts events throughout the year to include their annual Oyster Festival that takes place in October, plus they host many speaking events.  The museum and grounds are also available for your own personal event like weddings or birthday parties.

How did Captain Avery become famous?  Well, he never really did become famous except for the fact that the Shady Side Rural Historical Society preserved his home from demolition and made it a museum. 

The Captain Avery Museum in located in the town of Shady Side, Maryland.  It is located at 1418 East Shady Side Road.  (Please note that this town is on a peninsula and that Maryland Route 468 is the only way in and out of the town.) Visit to learn more about the museum.

John Cowgill ([email protected]) loves to visit historic places to include lesser known sites.  He loves taking road trips, and he loves railroads.


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